The Carver Lady Tigers looked left for dead a number of times down the stretch of Friday’s Class 4A semifinal matchup with Spalding. Despite their repeated efforts of pulling off something spectacular, the Lady Tigers came up one rally short.
Carver fell to Spalding 58-51 in a contest which saw the Lady Tigers claw back several times until they ran out of time. The Lady Tigers mounted late charge after late charge in the final four minutes of action, only for the Lady Jaguars to fend them off.
After Spalding seemed in control, JaNya Love-Hill’s two free throws capped off a surge from Carver which cut Spalding’s lead to 44-43 with 3:53 remaining in the fourth. Spalding responded with a 6-1 run over the next minute, fueled by powerful drives to the basket from Corriana Evans and Kayla Milner.
Again, the Lady Tigers found an answer.
Carver came through with consecutive shots from Jailyn Shaw and Love-Hill, whose layup courtesy an assist from Alycia Reese cut the Spalding lead to 50-48. After another Evans layup in traffic, Igus’ free throws and a layup from Reese helped the Lady Tigers draw it to a 54-51 score with 51 seconds to go.
Reese’s basket was the last for Carver in the 2017-2018 season.
With its shots no longer falling in crunch time, Carver also failed to get key rebounds as the Lady Jaguars whittled the clock with conservative possessions and free throws to make another Carver comeback impossible.
“They made some big free throws down at the end,” Carver coach Anson Hundley said. “We just weren’t able to make shots.”
The need-an-answer-now style of play by Carver was present throughout the majority of the game but only really produced at the start of the fourth quarter. Trailing Spalding 38-32, Carver took the lead back thanks to a 7-0 run to start the quarter, one responsible primarily by its high-pressure defense.
From there, it was a back-and-forth affair in which Carver simply did not have enough answers in the end.
A major component in Spalding’s victory was finally keeping Carver forward Olivia Cochran in check down the line. Cochran dominated the first half, falling two points short of a double-double in the first two quarters alone.
By the end, Cochran’s dominance was a distant memory. Spalding owned the glass in the second half, getting nearly every key rebound that had to be hauled in with the game on the line.
“That was key,” Hundley said. “We talked about that and worked on that all week, knowing those girls were going to jump around and hop around all week. We knew the rebounds would be the difference in the game.”
The loss was a bitter end to a season in which the Lady Tigers were dominant. The seven-point defeat shared the feel of last year’s state title game, a showdown in which Carver forced overtime with Columbus but ultimately fell short.
For the second year in a row, Carver seemed destined to pull out a win with a state title so close ahead. Again, the Lady Tigers came up short.
“We’re working,” Hundley said. “We’ll try and get back next year.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports